What is Hexahydrocannabinol (HHC) and How is it Made?

Hexahydrocannabinol (HHC) is a cannabinoid found naturally in cannabis plants and can also be produced synthetically in a laboratory. Learn more about how it's made and its potential therapeutic effects.

What is Hexahydrocannabinol (HHC) and How is it Made?

Hexahydrocannabinol (HHC) is a cannabinoid found naturally in the cannabis plant, and it can also be produced synthetically in a laboratory. It was first created in 1944 by the American chemist Roger Adams, when he added hydrogen molecules to the Delta-9 THC. This process, known as hydrogenation, converts THC to HHC. Hydrogenation is not limited to cannabinoid production; a similar process is used to convert vegetable oil to margarine. Instead, companies produce HHC and other forms of tetrahydrocannabinols through isomerization or hydrogenation processes.

Delta 8 and Delta 10 are made by isomerizing CBD, while HHC is made through a hydrogenation process in which THC is converted from CBD or extracted in its natural form. HHC can also be prepared from the terpene citronellol. Cannabinoids such as Delta-8, THC and HHC have more recently appeared on the market. They are made by starting with THC or some other cannabinoid and changing it slightly in a chemical laboratory. Information on its safety and usefulness is very limited, but there are some reports of serious side effects. The trend for cannabinoids continues, as HHC has appeared on the scene as one of the latest products derived from hemp to arrive.

Brown states that the ACS Laboratory is currently testing products for HHC every day, usually in the form of edibles or vaporizers. Many users report that the effects of HHC are similar to those of THC delta 8 in that they lean more toward relaxation than stimulation. Several structurally related analogs of HHC have been found naturally in cannabis, such as cannabiripsol, 9α-hydroxyhexahydrocannabinol, 7-oxo-9α-hydroxyhexahydrocannabinol, 10α-hydroxyhexahydrocannabinol, 10ar-hydroxyhexahydrocannabinol and 1′S-hydroxycannabinol, 10α-hydroxycannabinol -506 (9.1) - hexahydrocannabinol and 9β,10β-epoxyhexahydrocannabinol. When HHC is produced, it usually starts with a clean, purified cannabinoid, such as THC, and placed in a reducing environment. The degradation of D9-THC, which forms HHC, is the reduction of the carbon double bonds that would normally form the position of the delta isomer in the THC structure. HHC-O is a hydrogenated compound that binds to different receptors than normal hemp cannabinoids, such as Delta-8.Most of the HHC products you'll find on the market contain approximately equal portions of (R) and (S) HHC. While there are no federal regulations that establish the minimum age required to purchase HHC-O, there are state regulations that require consumers to be 18 or older to purchase. Older methods included the use of acids (synthetic gastric juice) to convert THC to HHC, while newer methods involved the conversion of a terpene called citronellal or hydrogenation with catalysts such as palladium.

The difference between CBD (cannabidiol) and HHC-O is that CBD doesn't have the psychoactive effects that HHC-O does. However, they do not test for palladium, rhodium, or rhenium (which are common catalysts for the conversion of HHC).Since HHC is found naturally in the cannabis plant, it is likely that humans have unknowingly consumed small amounts of this cannabinoid for centuries. HHC is still very new, so there aren't many studies available to evaluate its potential therapeutic effects, but so far it appears that this cannabinoid offers most of the same therapeutic effect profile as other forms of THC. As for potency, Gerdeman said in an email that HHC is less powerful than delta-9 and potentially less powerful than delta-8; however, that varies “because the chemistry that creates HHC is inconsistent across methods”.